By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS
Imphal : Manipur Thursday began culling an estimated 160,000 poultry following the outbreak of bird flu that has killed more than 100 chickens this month.
"The process of culling has already started involving about 20 Rapid Response Teams with five members in each group led by a veterinarian," K. Gopal, nodal officer of the Animal Disease Control programme in Manipur, told IANS.
The culling is being carried out within a five km radius of the farm at Chenngmeirong near state capital Imphal from where bird flu deaths were reported July 11. The poultry targeted includes ducks and chickens.
"The entire culling process is expected to be completed in about three days as our teams are visiting each and every household in the area," Gopal said.
The state government Wednesday sounded a general alert across Manipur and banned the sale and purchase of poultry after the Indian health and animal husbandry department confirmed that tests carried out on chickens that died at the Chenngmeirong farm were positive for bird flu.
"We are maintaining strict surveillance on other farms in the state with veterinarians carrying out checks on all poultry," the official said.
A team of central veterinary and health experts from New Delhi is camping in Imphal to help local authorities prevent the virus from spreading further.
"All steps are being taken to ensure that the virus is kept under check," Th Dorendra Singh, Manipur's veterinary director, said.
Health officials said there were no immediate reports of humans contracting the virus although they have put on medication about a dozen workers of the poultry farm where the deaths were reported.
"We have put the workers on Tamiflu and are keeping a close watch on their health status. Health checkups are on and we are monitoring the situation in and around the farm area," a health department official said.
There are an estimated 60,000 people residing in a five km radius from the farm where the virus was reported.
There has been no reported case of bird flu in other states of the northeast, but the discovery of the virus in Manipur has led to panic in the region with authorities in the adjoining states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Mizoram sounding a general alert.
"We have held several high level meetings and are taking all precautionary measures to see that the virus is not spread to other states. The movement of chicken and other poultry from Manipur has been stopped as a preventive measure," said Partha Jyoti Gogoi, regional director of health and family welfare in Assam.